When India was `The World'

RAJU BHARATAN

FOLLOWING the 2-0 whitewash of our dirty cricket linen in Hamilton public, forget all about an Ajit Wadekar style of Test series win, abroad, as a mirage — for the time being. Concentrate on the Here and Now. On the World Cup. Looking to how the ODI New Year Wednesday of 2003 had India poised to enter the last lap of our neo-century odyssey into the Veldt. How Sourav's India fares in the remaining four ODIs, on enviably green New Zealand soil, is all-important in the context of that Pepsi-helmeted guy's insisting: "We are building no hopes!'' No matter how now we finish on Kiwi tour, `The World' is another Cup altogether. It is a fresh campaign offering new challenges all along the line bowled by Srinath and Zaheer. The super athleticism in the field that Kapil Dev and his men brought to raising the moderate quality of our June 1983 bowling needs urgently to be replicated, in the new year of 2003, as we are so near the World Cup and yet so far.

A Kapillar of strength our captain remained right through that 1983 run-up to Lord's. Yet you would have been viewed as being Kapil Devil's advocate if, on the eve of the June 25, 1983 Lord's Cup Final, you ventured to suggest that India had an outside chance. Imagine, the odds officially offered in London, against India's beating Clive Lloyd's West Indies in that Lord's final, were 66 to 1. How Kapil & Co overcame those forbidding odds, for our Cup to be champagne-full, is a story worth retailing for the hiccups we encountered in qualifying to meet a West Indies Punch-drunk on success. Memory is the name of the lane down which we drive — from Old Trafford on the Thursday of June 9 to Lord's on the Saturday of June 25 — to get a vintage feel of how Kapil and his steed made every other daunting post a winning one. By picking and choosing the West Indies as the team to beat — first and last!

Let us, in this third-eye light, look at the `Kapitfalls' confronting India in June 1983. Take the very first match we played in that 1983 Prudential at Old Trafford. The victor was unmasked only in the final reel as that June 9 Manchester match extended to a second day. Never forget that 1983 was still a 60 overs World Cup --- with a regular luncheon break thrown in after two hours' play! Also remember that, till June 10, 1983, the West Indies had not lost a single World Cup match. While lowly India had been beaten by East Africa (by 10 wickets) in the 1975 Prudential Cup!

Against this backdrop — like in the Berbice (Guyana) ODI so sensationally lost by 27 runs to Kapil Dev's India on March 29, 1983 — Clive Lloyd, upon calling correctly, showed no June 9 hesitation in asking India to bat first at Old Trafford after rain had delayed the start. `Man of the Match' Yashpal Sharma's superbly crafted 89 it was that set the World Cup tone for Kapil's India, as it helped offset the conditions created by the notorious Manchester weather. That Yashpal 89 was crucial to India's raising, from 60 overs, an Old Trafford score of 262 for 8. The Windies rejoinder, at the end of the rain-shortened day, was 67 for 2 — with "That 'Ma'an Vivian'' still ominously there. But Viv Richards (17) fell, first thing next morning, to the Syed Kirmani-Roger Binny combo (76 for 3). Indeed the juggernaut might of the West Indies was reduced to 157 for 9 at one stage. There was a mini scare as Andy Roberts (ultimately 37 not out) and Joel Garner (37) belligerently added 71 for the last wicket. This was when Syed Kirmani effected a splendid stumping off Ravi Shastri to halt `Big Bird' Garner in his six-foot-eight stride. As the West Indies was thus dismissed for 228 off 54.1 overs, Kapil's India ran out major-upset winners by 34 runs.

A pointer to the shape of swings to come? By no means, as there was just no holding Prudential 1975-79 Champions West Indies thereafter. Clive Lloyd and his musclemen went on to smash Kim Hughes' Australia by 101 runs at Headingley. Outclass Zimbabwe by 8 wickets at Worcester. Show Kapil Dev's India its `true' status in the return match that the Caribbeans won, by 66 runs, at The Oval. Plus, in another return bout (this time at Lord's), the West Indies laid low Australia by as many as 7 wickets. After Kim Hughes (69) and his men had run up a tally of 273 for 6 from 60 overs. Then, five days before the Lord's final, we saw the Supercat and his supermen annihilate Zimbabwe by 10 wickets at Edgbaston. Given this record run, the West Indies could be excused for tending to brush off its 34-run Old Trafford loss to India as a defeat sustained in a `limb-loosener'.

After all, which team in that 1983 World Cup could be expected to stand firm in the teeth of the fire-breathing dragon assault mounted by Michael Holding and Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall? Least of all Kapil Dev's India, given its `now-here, now-nowhere' passage to the final against no visible shortening of those 66-to-1 odds. Not even after Kapil Dev's India had the smooth semifinal measure (by 6 wickets) of Bob Willis' England would those ruthlessly pragmatic bookmakers relent. A rewind to Kapil Dev & Co's Bob Beamon-like leap into the 1983 Prudential World Cup final should, therefore, prove all-revealing in the matter of our June 25 Lord's interface coming to be with the by then near invincible West Indies.

After the Berbice morale-booster leading up to that Old Trafford encore in discomfiting the West Indies, India at Leicester was expected to beat Zimbabwe. We did — by 5 wickets. But Sunny Gavaskar's fall to the raw pace of Rawson for 4 here (following his none too fluid 19 vs the West Indies on June 9) brought the reshmi rivalry between Kapil and Sunil to the fore again. That Sunil was not fit for the next key (June 13) game vs Kim Hughes' Australia was a denouement that did not exactly displease Kapil. The new skipper's having asked Sunny (after that second match vs Zimbabwe) to "Get your game together'' turned out to be a remark deeply resented by Gavaskar. Sunil, rightly or wrongly, interpreted it as Kapil's "thinking I'm not trying''. Sunil let it be known to Manager Man Singh that he was prepared to stand down, if that was the new Establishment's line of thinking.

As it happened, even with Sunil not fit to play and making way for Ravi Shastri (11), India was so decisively beaten at Trent Bridge by Australia (162 runs) that the Kangaroos looked to be back in the reckoning. Clearly at the expense of Kapil Dev's India, seeing the electric pace at which the West Indies bowled against us in the `grudge' match, at The Oval, on the Wednesday of June 15. This time the Caribbeans took no chances, they batted first upon winning the toss. `Man of the Match' Viv Richards' 119 set the Black Blaster momentum for the West Indies' 282 for 9 from 60 overs. Such a total, as the Windies proceeded to bowl with rare devil, was all the tougher for Kapil Dev's India to combat with no Sunil to lead the way. For Kapil had displayed the gumption to jettison `Calypsoul' Sunil in a match against the West Indies! Our 216 all-out response sans Sunny (from 53.1 overs) meant a dismal 66 runs' defeat. Also the West Indies's no longer perceiving Kapil Dev's India as a threat.

All the less so as the Saturday of June 18 had every appearance of India's knocking itself out of the 1983 World Cup to ease Australia's pathway to the semis. With Tunbridge Wells already under a cloud, Kapil Dev, as the toss-winner, clearly erred grievously in electing to bat first. In doing so, Kapil exposed Sunil Gavaskar (0) and Kris Srikkanth (0) alike to the elements. As Kapil's India stumbled from 0 for 1 to 6 for 2, from 6 for 3 to 9 for 4 — Sandeep Patil (1) and Mohinder Amarnath (5) also gone — Dev stood out as the lone sentinel at the other end, once Yashpal Sharma (9), too, left almost immediately. At 17 for 5 — in a match we had to win from Zimbabwe to hold Australia at bay and remain eligible for a semifinal spot — Kapil Dev's India looked to have gone for a toss. To think that Kapil had chosen to bat so as to ensure a better run rate than Australia's! As lunch came along, Kapil Dev himself was still there, true. Still by no means looking the Haryana Hurricane all set to lash Tunbridge Wells.

Fortuitously, as conditions eased after lunch, Kapil divined that Nevill Ground to be but a small one for a batsman of his biceps. In as thrilling a counter-attack as any seen in World Cup history, Kapil just launched into Messrs Rawson, Curran and Butchart. Five of his 6 sixes were struck clean out of Tunbridge Wells! His 17 fours fairly singed the Tunbridge Wells grass. His sadly unfilmed 175 not out pitchforked Kapil Dev into the realm of legend. Yet, even at 140 for 8, Kapil's India looked down for the `Zimbabwee' count. Here is where Syed Kirmani asserted his gritty batting personality — to which Sunil Gavaskar so often refers, on TV, in identifying the little fellow as India's best-ever wicket-keeper. The 126 runs that Kirmani (24 not out) helped Kapil put on for the ninth wicket saw Dev soar into outer space with his shotplay. India's 266 for 8 from 60 overs meant Zimbabwe could but try to make a match of it. Zimbabwe fought gamely before surrendering the match by 31 runs.

Not even hard-hitting Australia could now stop Kapil's zoom-lens entry into the semis. So high was India's confidence level by this point under Kapil Dev that David Hookes' Australia stood vanquished by 118 runs, at Chelmsford, on the Monday of June 20. Kapil's Haryanvi heave to international fame had incredibly placed the World Cup within view for India. How `Kap' stole the Cup from under the out-to-snub nose of Clive Lloyd is a saga that Neena could hear Papa (33) narrate to Masaba even today. The `Catch-33' Lord's situation from which Kapil Dev thus moved forward to uphold the World Cup is a Viv '83 champagne moment etched in the imagination of the nation. Dare we dream again? "Sub Moh Maya hai!''